Concussion issues dismissed as 'media sensationalism and hysteria'
June 19, 2014
Kieran Read, sidelined with concussion during the series against England, takes a stool during training © Getty Images
As rugby - along with other contact sports - struggles with the problems associated with concussion, a US-based neuropsychologist has given an interview to Planet Rugby in which he has dismissed what he described as "the concussion crisis" as hysteria and media sensationalism.
Dr Jim Andrikopoulos, who practises in the USA, was reported in the article to have "systematically torn to shreds the research undertaken at Boston University's Centre for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where the brains of ex-rugby players have been examined in conjunction with scores of NFL footballers and diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)".
He also attacked comments made by some close to rugby and went as far as saying Second Impact Syndrome - which was the finding of the inquest into the death of Northern Irish schoolboy Ben Robinson - did not exist.
As if that was not controversial enough, Andrikopoulos went on to say that families of affected former NFL players taking legal action in the USA were guilty of extortion.
He said that it was not possible to suffer from CTE as a result of playing rugby. "CTE as defined by Boston is an illusion; the literature bears that out," he said. "They made up a disease that they're telling us can only be diagnosed post-mortem. There is no precedent for that in the history of clinical neurology. They have to go backwards, go to the parents, the kids, or the spouse to collect the symptoms.
"CTE is a disease you can see and hear in living people, in the form of Parkinson's-like symptoms and speech problems. There's the famous case of (ex-NFL athlete) Tom McHale. His wife, Lisa, is now a representative at Boston. He happened to overdose on drugs: he was a coke user, a drug addict. He played football, Boston got his brain and they said, 'you know what, he's got CTE'.
"And the modus operandi here for selling CTE is to do it in the media: if it bleeds, it reads. The American public is in complete hysteria over this. Enough is enough. Stop telling mothers, families, sons, daughters, stop holding these family meetings and telling people this. It's offensive."
Andrikopoulos dismissed the Boston University study of "poor science, non-science and scaremongering" which frightens parents away from letting their children play sport.
"CTE does not exist, and Second Impact Syndrome is controversial; it's not the result of a second impact. I would not worry about concussion because it's transient, and kids should play, enjoy themselves and not be worried."
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